uPA/uPAR system activation drives a glycolytic phenotype in melanoma cells

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In this manuscript, we show the involvement of the uPA/uPAR system in the regulation of aerobic glycolysis of melanoma cells. uPAR over-expression in human melanoma cells controls an invasive and glycolytic phenotype in normoxic conditions. uPAR down-regulation by siRNA or its uncoupling from integrins, and hence from integrin-linked tyrosine kinase receptors (IL-TKRs), by an antagonist peptide induced a striking inhibition of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR/HIF1α pathway, resulting into impairment of glucose uptake, decrease of several glycolytic enzymes and of PKM2, a checkpoint that controls metabolism of cancer cells. Further, binding of uPA to uPAR regulates expression of molecules that govern cell invasion, including extracellular matrix metallo-proteinases inducer (EMPPRIN) and enolase, a glycolytyc enzyme that also serves as a plasminogen receptor, thus providing a common denominator between tumor metabolism and phenotypic invasive features. Such effects depend on the α5β1-integrin-mediated uPAR connection with EGFR in melanoma cells with engagement of the PI3K-mTOR-HIFα pathway. HIF-1α trans-activates genes whose products mediate tumor invasion and glycolysis, thus providing the common denominator between melanoma metabolism and its invasive features. These findings unveil a unrecognized interaction between the invasion-related uPAR and IL-TKRs in the control of glycolysis and disclose a new pharmacological target (i.e., uPAR/IL-TKRs axis) for the therapy of melanoma.

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